La Belle Dame Sans Merci

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  • La Belle Dame Sans Merci
    • written before his death 1821, so may have influenced the subject/tone
      • Keats had other experiences with death as he nursed his mother+bro
    • written in the form of a traditional folk ballad and is broken into twelve quatrains.
      • cyclical structure suggests he is perpetually trapped in a limbo
        • conveys inevitability of reality reasserting itself over the illusionary
    • Keats took the title from a poem by the medieval poet, Alain Cartier. It means, the beautiful woman without mercy.
      • acts as an ominous signifier, immediately characterising La Belle as a femme fatale
    • 1st: 'Knight' conventionally noble=magnitude of a tragic hero
      • juxtaposed by 'palely' and 'loitering' denoting absence through the foreboding tone
      • 'no birds sing' void of sound and life
        • shortened last line means we are left to hang onto the words in silence, deprived of the last syllable in reflection of his deprevation
    • 2nd: describes his physical and emotional state 'haggard and  so woe begone'
      • This repetition with slight variation is called incremental repetition and is a characteristic of the folk ballad.
        • juxtaposed by 'palely' and 'loitering' denoting absence through the foreboding tone
    • 4th: describing her eyes as 'wild' may suggest she is untamed and has 'sans merci'
      • Alternatively it could present her as prey communicating fear through her eyes
    • anaphoric repetition of 'I' in stanza 3-6 deploys the knight as the dominant character
      • shift from 1st to 3rd person pronoun in stanza 7 shows a shift in power
        • 'took me to her elfin grot' represents the power she has in the dream realm
        • Yet La Belles lack of voice throughout the whole poem may present her as a victim as the knight may feel he has merely lost his 'pride'
          • women are used as scapegoats for the downfall of men. If they chose not to be subordinated they are seen as a threat to male dominance prevailing
    • 9th and 10th: 'on the cold hill's side' cold and desolate place could represent the harsh reality of the real world
      • cyclical structure suggests he is perpetually trapped in a limbo
        • conveys inevitability of reality reasserting itself over the illusionary
      • 12th: The knight uses the word " sojourn," which implies he will be there for some time. The repetition of language from stanza I also reinforces the sense of no movement in connection with the knight

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